Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra seldom talks in riddles. No wonder most political observers were trying to decipher her statement on Friday morning, obliquely suggesting that she could be her party's chief ministerial nominee in next month's Uttar Pradesh Assembly election.
Priyanka, who was releasing a manifesto on job creation, was asked about the Congress' chief ministerial candidate for the election. She was initially cagey, but when pressed, remarked: "Do you see any other face?" Then, she added by way of explanation, ‘‘Nothing has been decided yet. we will let you know when we do."’
Hours later, she said the statement was "tongue-in-cheek." "I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek. Because I am asked this question... every second question is the same question," Priyanka said in an interview to NDTV. "Clearly, I am the general Secretary for UP. Whether officially we have to say, 'this is the face', 'that is the face'...it is unlikely we are going to do that," she said.
Some political observers felt that the Congress leader was playing mind games with the BJP and the SP, which have already zeroed in on their nominees – Yogi Adityanath and Akhilesh Yadav, respectively. Such statements serve to keep the political grapevine abuzz and the rivals guessing.
Asked why she was not fighting the polls, she interjected: "You don't know yet whether I am or not. It is an open question for now." So, she could contest the polls? "I may well...I may well," replied the 50-year-old Congress leader.
This is not the first time Priyanka has indicated that she is taking her political avatar seriously. Back in 2019, ahead of the Lok Sabha election, Priyanka told reporters she was ready to contest "if (my) party wants (me to)". That was when she had been appointed as the party's in-charge for eastern Uttar Pradesh, leading to speculation that she could contest from Rae Bareli.
It is of course not necessary for Priyanka to fight an election; she can be the party’s chief ministerial nominee and later enter the House as a legislative council member. Neither Yogi nor Akhilesh has ever contested a state election, although that will change now, with the former standing from Gorakhpur and the latter from Karhal, which had sent Mulayam Singh Yadav to the Lok Sabha. Yet both became chief ministers and were later elected to the state's Legislative Council.
On whether that she could be pitted against Yogi Adityanath in Gorakhpur, Priyanka told NDTV: "No...I haven't considered it until you suggested it."